global warming

We all instinctively know that burning fossil fuels is a dirty process: get caught up in the smoke and you will cough, wheeze and have stinging eyes as a minimum. Get caught up in too much of it in a confined space and you will die.

Even though this was evident from a very early stage of their use it seems there has been a collective belief that somehow the fumes would just “blow away”: that the Earth’s atmosphere was somehow “big enough” to absorb all the fumes we were likely to throw at it. “Common sense” should have told us that, in the absence of some giant chimney to take the fumes into space, the fumes had nowhere to go and so would affect the atmosphere to some extent. The first prediction that they would was made as far back as the end of the 19th century, about 150 years after man had started burning fossil fuel in any great quantity. The first claims that they were making an impact was made way back in the 1930’s and by 2001 there was a broad scientific agreement that the increased concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was caused by man’s activities and was having an impact on the global climate. What was worst, the scale of those impacts was going to keep getting worse as the concentration levels rose and could threaten the continuation of civilisation as we know it, if not the very existence of life on the planet.

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was the first major world leader to call for concerted action to address global warming and the resultant climate change. Speaking in 1988 she struck a similar tone to the rhyme but crouched it in more economic terms. “No generation has a freehold on this Earth all we have is a life tenancy with a full repairing lease”.

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